Gabon’s government has announced that a group of soldiers who seized the national radio station in an apparent coup attempt early on Monday have been arrested.
The “situation is under control”, government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told Radio France Internationale (RFI), just hours after the soldiers announced they were “restoring democracy” in a message on state radio.
Four of the five mutineers have been arrested and a fifth one is “on the run”, Mapangou added.
International news agencies had announced early Monday that the junior officers had seized power in the oil-rich country. The soldiers were quoted to have said that they carried out the coup “to restore democracy” in the country where the president’s family has ruled for 50 years.
Tanks and armed vehicles were sighted on the streets of the capital Libreville.
The soldiers took control of the national radio station in the early hours of Monday and read a short statement announcing the establishment of a “National Restoration Council” in the absence of the country’s ailing president, Ali Bongo, who is receiving treatment in Morocco.
A New Year’s address by Bongo “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office,” said Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon. In his speech, Bongo acknowledged health problems but said he was recovering. He slurred some of his words and did not move his right arm.
Bongo, 59, was hospitalised in October in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke. He has been in Morocco since November to continue treatment.
The Bongo family has ruled the oil-producing country for nearly half a century. Bongo has been president since succeeding his father, Omar, who died in 2009. His re-election in 2016 was marred by claims of fraud and violent protest.